Upgrade Linn LP 12 or buy new table


I would like to get back into vinyl after an approx. 17 year absence. I have a Linn LP 12 that I bought in 1983 which I used for 15 years and then put into storage. I never got rid of my vinyl. So my question is : Do I upgrade my LP 12 to the tune of three to four thousand dollars or do I spend the same amount on a new turntable and sell the LP 12?  Everyone's two cents worth would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks
hal253
What arm do you have? I would imagine the cartridge is in need of replacement. These are factors.

if you are interested in new, I am very impressed by the VPI Prime
I had a nicely set up LP12 and it sounded great, but I hit a point of either further obligation to Linn for upgrades and maintenance mor change. I decided to trade off on a Rega RP10. I do miss the musical pacing of the LP12, in my opinion it would become high maintenance and the trade off of, in my opinion, the freedom I felt I gained, the Rega has been a good transitional table for me. The timbre and pacing are very similar. But if you haven't been listening to vinyl for a while, you may not notice the differences in sounds of other tables by comparison.
if you have a dealer that knows how to tune an LP12 properly, it would be a lesser investment to start with. Then you have a way to see if you really want to get emerced  in vinyl. I think you will. If you do want it tuned properly contact Rick at audioalternative.com and get an estimate. You can ship it him and he ships it back set up as good as it can be tuned. 
This is tough decision if planning to spend 3-4K as that buys a nice table, but it also buys a good tune up, nice cartridge and maybe a good used phono stage if you need one. 
My final thought is have the table assessed by some one who knows them. After 17 years of sitting idle a lot of parts have dried and lost resilience and it may take a rebuild besides a tune up. 
Good luck
Why do you assume you have to spend 4K on upgrades.  The linn sounds very good without any of the new additions.  However, you will have to get it set up properly and you might need a few small parts like springs, which are cheap.  No matter what anybody says, once set up properly, a Linn does not require constant maintenance and it will stay set up for many years until requiring any adjustments. But you do need a good setup person.  
Assuming your arm is in good shape between a full tune up and a new cartridge, you can be back in to vinyl for a whole lot less than $3000. Depends on how much you want to spend on a cartridge!  Figure a Denon DL103, for instance, and your back in way under $1000. Dynavector offers some very good values too. 
  • I apologize for not providing more details. The LP12 has an Ittok arm on it. I bought a Goldring Eroica LX cart.and a Jolida JD9 II phono preamp to use no matter what path I take. Since it's been a long time since I last played vinyl and the rest of my system is way beyond what I was listening to when I last played the Linn I figured some upgrade was due in the turntable. My present system consists of:
  • Conrad Johnson CT5 preamp
  • Velocce Saetta Amps
  • Esoteric X03 SE CD player
  • Focal Utopia Diablo speakers
  • Focal Electra sub
.     Thanks so far for your help. Have a great day.   Henry    
Good arm and table. Need a new belt, new oil for the bearing, new springs and grommets would be nice- all part of a tune up.

Nice system 

$3 - $4K?  Buy a VPI Prime or a VPI Classic and never look back.  The absolute BEST a LINN can sound is nowhere close to modern tables in that price range. 


"The absolute BEST a LINN can sound is nowhere close to modern tables in that price range"

A little extreme, and way off base. The Prime is a great table and a modern Linn, is also a great table. 
I respectfully disagree with bpoletti when he says that the "absolute BEST a LINN can sound is nowhere close to modern tables in that price range." I suggest that you find a competent Linn dealer to help replace the springs and grommets, tune the suspension, replace the drive belt, assess the cartridge and replace the bearing oil. This should cost only a few hundred dollars if the cartridge is OK. A Denon DL103R is a great cartridge for a reasonable price - around $300. You would end up well under $1,000 and almost certainly have a turntable that competes very nicely with modern turntables in the $3-4K price range.

Should you choose to upgrade, you could get a Cirkus bearing kit ($750) and Kore subchassis ($1,200). These are worthwhile upgrades as is the Lingo 3 power supply, though at $1,800, that would push to the upper limit of your budget.

If you can find a dealer to demonstrate these upgrades, I suggest that you hear and assess these for yourself. Rely on your own experience but don't automatically give up on the Linn because of its age. The LP12 can be maintained for a very modest cost and upgraded at varying price points. Based on my experience, the Cirkus, Kore and Lingo 3 are well worthwhile. At the highest upgrade level, an LP12 competes with turntables at very high price points. 

Thomas O'Keefe at Overture Audio in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Rick Duplisea of The Audio Alternative in Fort Collins, Colorado, are both excellent dealers and Linn authorities whom you could contact for expert help with your LP12.

Hal253,

First, kudos on a nice, well balanced system.  I recommend you do some demos of the latest version of the Linn LP12 with all the PS upgrades against other tables if you can, but if pushed, my recommendation would be to replace the Linn.  Assuming you can sell you current Linn LP12 for $1k used, for $4-6k (i.e., sale price plus the price to upgrade), you can buy a table that will substantially outperform the Linn. If you are inclined in that direction, I am happy to supplement my post with particular suggestions.

Best of luck.
Linn tables have inherent colorations that cannot be overcome or disguised with upgrades.  Voodoo dealers and magic incantations cannot fix the problems with Linn tables.

The best way to upgrade a Linn table is to replace it with a VPI, Clearaudio or Basis table.
As a long time Sondek Lp12 owner (circa:1982), amongst other forays, and having much experience with the folks at Overture Audio of Ann Arbor over the years, I agree with casaross, who has covered the fundamentals nicely. For some, this TT may have gone out of style, but for anyone with two good ears, the music it will make is still quite compelling and relevant respectively.
Once again, a lot of opinions on how the LP12 sounds from those who have clearly NEVER heard a top flite LP12 Radikal D Klimax!
Anyone who says Linn tables have "inherent colorations" and would suggest a VPI or Clearaudio over a top elite LP12 IMHO is simply shooting from the hip.
All tables to a greater or lesser extent have colorations...as do all systems.
Again, IMHO the OP would be best served upgrading the LP12 that he already has and therefore I would agree with casaross.
For $3-4K a lot of excellent upgrades can be added, including a Cirkus and Kore and possibly a Lingo 3. The resulting table would easily see off a VPI Prime and many others in the same price range...or even considerably higher.

Sow's ear / silk purse problem.  A Linn is, at best, a refined AR.  Not up to current standards. 

Not shooting form the hip.  Actual experience says otherwise. 
I may be selling my 8 month-old VPI Prime.  Deciding whether to trade it in to a dealer or sell it privately.  If you interested, feel free to message me.  For the price, the Prime would be tough to beat.  I haven't heard of a Prime owner that hasn't loved it.  However, there are always other options out there that you may want to explore.   Can't comment on any other tables as I haven't auditioned many others than VPI tables. 
Actually the idea of the Sondek (sound deck) was gathered and improved from the concept of the Ariston RD11 which had parts being made by Castle Engineering (Ivor's father's shop) and was very similar to the AR XA conceived loosely from the Thorens TD150 as I recall. But who's pointing fingers anyway?

Your facts being inaccurate, seem to somewhat diminish your point to irrelevance. Just because it's an old, copied shoe box, doesn't mean it doesn't carry a tune accurately for a fair price and compete with new shiny, sleek plinths. Or at least that is my actual experience and what these ears hear. 

No inaccuracy in FACTS.  The Linn is an upgraded AR.  Nothing more.  Just keep adding more overpirced bells and whistles combined with massive amounts of voodoo, snake oil and pixie dust delivered on the backs of rainbow unicorns. 
Invest $200 in having your old Linn tuned up by an authorized Linn dealer and sit back and spin your vinyl collection. After 6-12 month, readdress your needs. It's not a race. 
+1 on that. Nice call brf. 
As a Linn is an upgraded AR a BMW 7 series is an upgraded Chevy Nova
Thanks to everyone who has responded. There may be wisdom in sticking with the Linn for now and hear what happens. It is quite interesting to read the various people's posts who definitely have their own strong opinions either for or against the Linn. I don't remember ever seeing as much conflict regarding a single piece of gear as I have the Linn in these forums.
 Cheers
hal 253, I think that it is clear now on the forums that there are a number of people who like to Linn bash. These same people have likely never even heard the entry level LP12 Majik version, never mind the Akurate or Klimax version. However, that does not stop them from saying all kinds of garbage about the table. I have owned my LP12 for several years and have upgraded over time as funds have allowed. Each upgrade has been very worthwhile and easily heard. I have also 'AB'ed my current set up against a number of different tables in my system, and the LP12 always was preferred. Some very good advice from brf above... it's not a race, but IF you want a platform that can ultimately give you great sound, well IMHO you are right there. 
Dear Hal, I think these last few guys have put you on a sensible track.  Since your last reference point for what vinyl sounds like is your LP12, it makes most sense to spend a few hundred bucks just to bring your LP12 back to life, with no upgrades at first.  This probably would include a new belt and cleaning and re-lubricating the bearing, at a minimum.  Find an experienced Linn tech to do these things. Combined with the Ittok tonearm and your Goldring cartridge, you may like what you hear, but keep in mind that the choice of tonearm and cartridge have a huge, probably the major, effect on what you'll hear.  Spend a month or two or three listening to that rig, and then you will have a better idea where to go from there.  I am not personally familiar with the Jolida phono stage, but that too may be a limiting factor.  It may be that spending $3K to $4K, as you propose, on just a new turntable or on Linn upgrades makes no sense if you change nothing else in the reproduction chain.  But you should be the judge of that, not any of us.  

If I were you, I would take lewn suggestion.  I have recently heard a Linn.  They are great tables.  
If you decide to keep the Linn, make sure you have someone who knows what he/she is doing to set it up.  They can sound good or not depending on the setup.  Be VERY careful driving it back home...it can go out of adjustment in the move.
Thanks for the advice.  I was wondering if anyone in the group has an opinion/experience with the SOTA line of turntables. They are made in the USA and appear to be a similar in design to the Linn.      
Thanks

I agree with BRF/lewm to get it tuned up first and listen for a while. It's a nice table.

You might also want to consider the Kore subchassis upgrade right up front. That's about $1,200. Just did that on my 15 year old LP12 and the difference is extreme. It tightened the sound up, better detail, cleaner and more extended bass (no idea why/how the bass got more extended but it did.) Like a new table IMO.

I'm using an Akiva cart, the first generation of Ekos arm and first gen Lingo power supply.

Enjoy!

Hal253, I have heard most of the SOTA's in their line. They are a good table and would be an excellent choice, IF you didn't already have a platform that is as great as it is. 
I think a top flite Linn Klimax SE can still out point all of the SOTA's. 
One plus for the SOTA line, they can accommodate a much wider variety of tonearm..but that would be my only point in their favor.
I did a Kore in 2015. Way good move. Everything was better, no trade offs. 

2016 is likely the year for a new cartridge. I have an Arkiv B. Long in the tooth. My first inclination was the Kandid and now I see there's a new cartridge, the Krystal, at less that 1/2 the Kandid's price. I'm not changing my tonearm (Ekos II). I have a very late type 1 lingo which means it's got the board that went into all the type 2 lingo units. 

I did a Kore in 2015. Way good move. Everything was better, no trade offs. 

2016 is likely the year for a new cartridge. I have an Arkiv B. Long in the tooth. My first inclination was the Kandid and now I see there's a new cartridge, the Krystal, at less that 1/2 the Kandid's price. I'm not changing my tonearm (Ekos II). I have a very late type 1 lingo which means it's got the board that went into all the type 2 lingo units. 

zavato, I would suggest a move up to the Radikal D. That is the preferred Linn route as to upgrades...and before a cartridge upgrade. Personally, I think the Radikal D is a superb upgrade and does transform the table. As to a new cart, I am in the same position as you...my Benz is now long in the tooth. There are some pretty good cartridge choices out there...the two Linn cartridges are definitely contenders...but there are others also. I suspect that a replacement for the older Lyra Skala is in the works....might be worth waiting for that and therefore doing the Radikal D first.
There are Linn fans, Nottingham fans ( me included ), VPI fans etc.
This thread will get you nowhere. I think the idea to have it set up and listen for a while is best.
inna, you could not have said it more concise.

IMHO this cuts to the chase and commits the least amount of the OP's hard earned dollars while taking full advantage of a deck he once loved, and already has. Everything, every other move can wait it's turn. 

And yes, (full disclosure) amongst others, I still own my '82 Sondek Lp12.

Happy spinning, Happy Listening!

I am in similar situation, though not with a LP12 or at your budget. I am with those who have encouraged you to refurbish your table, with possibly minor upgrades and listening to it for a while to get a sonic ‘feel' for it again. Your table would likely be worth the funds you have put into it when finished, and if your then decided to purchase a different table it could be sold to help fund this purchase. Though I would’t sell it until I had compared to the new table, if only for my own edification. More importantly, you might find the refurbished LP12 might be the only one you need.

Regarding the Jolida phono, I once owned one and while it is very good at its’ price point, you could do better. A decision that could be made after the TT decision.

 

Again,Thanks for the input. Since my Linn is pre-Cirkus,should that be the first upgrade as well as having the table tuned? Also it is possible to put an OL Ultra motor kit into the Linn. Anyone with experience with this?
PS The OL Ulta kit is much more cost effective than a Radikal D.

Yeah, that Jolida JD9II is a giant killer for the $$ and modest upgrades can make it even more untouchable. 
I just keep upgrading my Linn LP12--tomorrow I go to the Linn audio shop near me to have the Keel I ordered installed while I wait. I cannot afford both Keel and Radikal so doing just one for now. My Linn is about 15 years old and has Ekos II, Cirkus, Trampolin, Linto and Lingo 2, and an Akiva cartridge installed a couple of years ago. Every year or two I find I do something with my LP12. I heard the Keel demonstrated about 10 years ago at this shop and have never forgotten the mesmerizing sound that came out of a regular LP12. He had two tables ready for the demo, one with Keel and one without, and I was sold. But I couldn't afford the upgrade till now. I thought about doing something else, but the memory of how good that LP12 with the Keel sounded was still with me and I couldn't resist. I have not heard a before and after with the Radikal but reviews say it is a similar level of improvement. I am not one who typically can hear the difference between motors in audio components, so I'd like to have a demo before I splurge on the Radikal in the next year or two.
So if you upgrade to a Kore or Keel do you still need to install the Cirkus kit?

You should upgrade your Linn.  And play all your new disco and hair band vinyl.  It's a great match for your AR 2ax speakers.  Go out in the evening wearing your double knit leisure suit.  You can also finally upgrade your rotary phone to touch tone. 
bpoletti
What if I have EPI 100 speakers instead of the AR's driven by an Apt Holman preamp and an Yamaha B1 amplifier. LOL 

hal253, IMO, the Cirkus kit makes one of the biggest improvements. The new bearing is a lot quieter and this really helps the SQ. The new Kore or Keel is most of the way to a Cirkus kit... I believe you can now buy the bearing by itself and be basically 100% there...well you should change out the springs and grommets...but??
Many years ago, after catching myself choosing records based on sound quality rather that music content, I sold my turntable (SOTA Star Sapphire) and tonearm (E.T. 2), and began a search for my final "ultimate" turntable. The Goldmund Reference was the top level/most expensive table at the time. I have never even seen one. This was also in the days when Audio Salons were fairly common, and I travel a lot so I had access to most of them. 

I listened to many high end expensive turntables, most of which were completely boring. That is why I sold the SOTA. None of them excited me. A high price tag and good reviews are no guarantee you will like the final product. 

While in this process, I bought a Linn Axis to hold me over. The arm, a Basik, was garbage and probably damaged so I replaced it with an Ittok. It turns out my cartridge, a Koetsu Rosewood Pro IV, loved that arm. Later, when my power supply went out on the Axis, I replaced it with a Lingo. I probably have the best sounding Axis in the world! I still have the Axis and I still like it.

The table I finally chose was one I found by accident in Kalamazoo MI. I went into the store looking for a Wilson Benish, which they carried but did not have. Instead they sat me down in front of a Pink Triangle Anniversary (Benish tonearm). I spent at least two hours listening. I had more tables I wanted to hear so I didn't buy it then, but I could not get that table out of my head. I finally bought one and have never had any desire to replace it.

Other tables that would have made me happy if I hadn't found the Pink: Rega, Well Tempered, and Linn. Now, this was 25 years ago (that hurts to think about) and there are a lot of new tables that I might consider that didn't exist then, but I still would buy the Pink, and I can't believe I've owned it that long.

The Linn us not the ultimate, most accurate or even best regarded turntable, but it is one fine listening device. The Ittok is an excellent tonearm, the Ekos is better (I use an Ekos on my Pink). You already have the Linn, have it tuned up and enjoy. Don't worry about not having the ultimate, that's a race you can never win. If you happen to find one that makes you want to leave her (this is not about your wife, it's much less expensive to change turntables), then think about replacement.
I am an X VPI dealer and the LP 12 is much better. I upgraded mine but not with Linn gear which is way high. I got a Hercules PS and several after market upgrades. Forgive me I had a brain tumor and it erased much of my memory. They all made a big difference, I got them before my operation. Look on the English sites like Pink Fish. I had a Rega arm which was very good and I was used to a Graym. Spelling bad also. I also got the x vertical adjustment mount, the reasonable one not the top one. I can't look at the gear as my friend is keeping the tables for me. 

Two of my friends had Ravens and I liked the Linn better. They had more weight but the Linn could dance.

My heartfelt advice to you is DO NOT part with your Linn! There are several excellent turntables mentioned on this thread that I could certainly live with, but transitioning to one of them would cut into buying new records.

Cons: Linn's gotten a little inflated opinion of themselves, and factory upgrades are very expensive. New ones are not the great value they used to be. You can get a lot more for less money than you used to (but it's not a Linn Sondek).

Pros: This is the Porsche 911 of turntables--it's a classic, maybe not for everyone, but if you like it, there are plenty of parts available, plenty of people who know how to work on it, and lots of aftermarket parts to tweak it to your ears' desire. You can easily work on it yourself--I have for years--thanks to loads of information online and plenty of people to ask. Some of the mods/upgrades offer 80% of Linn factory performance for 20% the price (Mose/Hercules and GreenStreet, for ex.). 

I'm the second owner of a 1976 Linn Sondek that I've upgraded ever since I bought it (in '81). It's my most prized possession, and thanks to inflation and currency exchange, it's still worth a little more than I paid for it. When you've got a turntable this caliber, it's no longer a matter of "bigger better faster," it's just different. There's a "character" to the Linn's sound that reminds me of listening to live music--concert halls, bars and living rooms--but not studio playback. Not for everyone, but it looks like a turntable, works like a turntable (not a test bench) and keeps me playing records till 3AM, even after thirty five years--and that's really what it's all about.
bpolleti, have you heard a Linn lp12 SE?  I think it's competitive with other high-end turntables out there, even though it was first made many years ago.
Linn opinions still retain vestiges of the cult once surrounding Linn (and NAIM).  To some, a Linn represents a b&w TT decision- either you are for or against.   A Linn is what it is- a highly advanced AR XA.  Given the design, there are inherent limitations regarding what can be done to improve the table.  If I were in your situation, I would investigate power supply and bearing upgrades, combined with a full setup by a competent dealer.  The later should include new springs, rubber grommets, bearing oil, recheck of arm geometry etc.  In sum the Linn is a very good table that you will have to spend a lot of money to meaningfully improve, or improve upon.  

Disclosure- I own a late 80's LP12/Vallhalla/ Ittok LVII/ AT 33ML-OCC combo 
I found a very good way to get an improved sound from my Brooks Berdan set up LP12/Ittok/Armageddon was to sell it and buy a Well Tempered Simplex or Amadeus. No more worries about the bounce and it’s a better sounding table to my ear, while still be in the same style of sound, if that makes sense. I since have moved onto a rebuilt Thorens 124 and I like it better than the Amadeus. So now I have a classic experience and a fantastic sounding table. It was hard to part with the LP12 (had it for 10 years) but ultimately it was the right decision..
dhcod, that's an interesting story...OTOH with the money spent on the various TT's, could you not have upgraded your LP12? While I like the Thorens, it is not IMHO, in the same league as a full spec LP12 SE.
As usual, many here are comparing older LP12's with Ittok's and older Valhalla ( even Nirvana!! ) power supplies, etc and assuming those set ups ( if they have even been set up in the last 25 years??) are comparable to todays LP12's.